The government middle school in Sanjay Nagar of Faridkot district has about 180 students studying from class 6 to 8, who in the past four months have not seen a lighted bulb as power connection to the school was disconnected as it failed to pay a bill of Rs 19,000.
Lack of electricity has rendered the six computers and the small domestic reverse osmosis water purification system useless. To compound the problem the classrooms and offices fell dark in the winter season as there was no sun shine.
The bill was not paid because of lack of funding as the government does not issue any proper grant to primary and upper primary (middle) schools to pay the power bills.
"Earlier, we used to pay the bill somehow but as the amount reached too much, Rs 19,000, we failed to pay it. So we have no power for about four months. We got a grant of about Rs 4,000, but it came with a rider to use it some other specific purposes," said a teacher, wishing anonymity.
The defunct RO system has forced the students to rely on a hand pump for drinking water. This same water is pumped into the overhead water tank.
Bedsides the middle school, government primary school (basic) for girls, which has about 350 students, has an outstanding power bill of about Rs 7,000."The amount is too much and we do not have grants to pay it," said a teacher.
The schools, which are located in economically backwards locality, are not isolated examples but are an instance of a wide-spread problem.
Besides drinking water and power, the primary school has a problem of infrastructure also with four of its classrooms been declared unsafe leaving it with only two rooms for 10 sections. Two of these sections have now been shifted to a nearby building, but still there is more chaos and little study.
"Despite the fact that the water of most of hand pumps is not fit for consumption because of their very bad quality, the school children mostly rely on it. Only a small number of schools get drinking water from the water department, some have installed domestic RO systems with the help of donors, but they too fail to cater to the needs of hundreds of children.
Only few have commercial ones as they are very expensive," said a school teacher on the conditions of anonymity.
"Though there is no provision of paying power bills the government wants everything to be conducted online. The connection of government girls primary school in Panjgrain Kalan was disconnected due to power bill of about Rs 7,800, but was restored for one month on the intervention by the panchayat. Besides it, government middle school Sirsari, government primary school Rameana and a school in Jiwan Nagar have unpaid bills around or upwards of Rs 15,000 each. We want the government to release some special funds for the purpose or pay the bills directly," demanded Prem Kumar Chawla, state vice-president of government teachers union.
"A grant of Rs 10,000 for upper primary and Rs 5,000 for the primary schools is released to make adjustments besides a maintenance grant. But there is no special grant to pay the bill or installing water purification systems," said Parminder Singh Brar, district education officer, primary, Faridkot.
"We are collecting and analysing samples of drinking water from all schools and if there is any problem the government would be asked to make arrangements," he added.